FRUIT: And so it begins.

Here in Philadelphia, summer seems to have come early. Most of my favorite New Jersey U-picks (which they insist on calling “Pick Your Own”) have opened, and the deluge of fruit has begun. Last weekend’s haul included 15 pounds of strawberries and about 20 pounds of sweet cherries. Sour cherries should be ready in a couple of weeks. So. Where do I go, and what do I do with this stuff?

My favorite strawberry farm, Gaventa’s, no longer offers U-pick. Waaaah. My next favorite strawberry farm, Mood’s, apparently isn’t offering strawberries this year, but plans to open for other fruit picking in mid-June. That left Johnson’s, a weirdly tourist-y place in Medford that I don’t particularly recommend as a “farm experience” (enforced hayrides = bad, in my book), but the price was right ($1.75/pound for more than 10 pounds) and the berries were DELICIOUS. But here’s the kicker: they wanted $4.95 for pick-your-own cherries. Um, no.

For that, we headed over to Rowand’s Farm in Glassboro. Now this is a U-pick I can live with. The proprietors sit in lawn chairs and hand you plastic buckets. Sweet cherries are $1.65/pound. They also have strawberries, but I can’t vouch for them, having already gorged myself at Johnson’s. But there’s a catch: they’re closed on Saturdays.

Once you bring all that fruit home, then you have to do something with it. Some options and recommendations from last year’s blog:

Freeze it, individually (not particularly recommended, but convenient) or in sugar
Make endless jars of jam, including my favorite, cherry raspberry
Can it with rhubarb
Combine it with lemons for a marmalade
Stash it in syrup
Dehydrate it

Julia over at What Julia Ate highly recommends drowning fruit in alcohol and straining the remains to make liqueur. This is a new one for me, so no results yet. But I’ll keep you posted.

Happy picking and preserving!

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8 comments to FRUIT: And so it begins.

  • Meg

    I’m not sure how helpful this comment will be, since I’ve only ever picked their apples, but Linvilla Orchards in Media, PA is another u-pick farm. It’s a fun place, not too touristy except at Halloween (no enforced hayrides) and they offer 34 varieties of peaches, among various other fruits. I will be spending much time there this summer! Thanks for the recommendations for other local u-picks 🙂

  • Re: fruit in alcohol: YES!! Do it!! I have been doing this since our fruit started up and omg, best idea EVER. I did strawberry vodka, strawberry rum, peach rum (DIVINE), and peach brandy (I used this to make a white sangria). The strawberry ones mix with sparkling water or club soda to make a beautiful grown-up soda and the rums are perfect for use in making a fruity mojito. If the fruit is really ripe it usually doesn’t need to sit for more than a day, for a quart jar.

  • I made liquor with the sour cherries I picked last summer…Amazing! So I definitely recommend it. Find a nice great big glass jar, fill up with clean fruit and cheap vodka (it will mellow out, so quality doesn’t matter much here). Let it sit in a cool area shaking it up every once in a while for a month or so, add a sugar syrup to taste (btw…tasting is fun and should be done with friends…this is also why you get a really really big jar), and let the whole thing sit for another week or two. Strain, bottle, share/hoard, and enjoy 😀 Oh, and if like me you don’t like throwing things away, after you drain all the alcohol from the cherries, instead of tossing them, cover them with three or four bottles of white wine and in a month or so, you’ll have a very nice fortified cherry wine. After that though you’ll probably need to toss the berries, but it’ll be a year later and you’ll need that jar for the next batch.

  • There’s also brandied or bourbon cherries, which are AWESOME.

  • David R

    After soaking blueberries in bourbon last year (itself a terrific idea) my brother removed the liquor, added some vinegar and spices to the blueberries, and had something that resembled ketchup. Well, some kind of sweet/sour spreadable condiment, anyway, and it was delicious.

  • Dejay Duckett

    Thanks for the info! I moved to NJ 3 years ago Burlington County, NJ and Johnson’s was the only pick-your-own everyone mentioned. Unfortunately It’s more like an amusement park than a farm, so I really appreciate your suggestions. Will most offer pyo blueberries later in the summer?

  • dorisandjilly

    Dejay: Mood’s usually has blueberries. Check their Web site later this month!

  • Looks like the idea of fruit and alcohol is a pretty popular idea! Not surpringly! I also use the spent fruit in jam. Mmm, booze-soaked fruit jam!